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Pritam Singh responds to Lawrence Wong who said that WP cannot just continue asking the Govt questions

The leader of the Opposition said that holding the government to account will remain fundamental to the WP's work in Parliament

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Singapore— Workers’ Party head Pritam Singh has responded to comments made by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong over the weekend to the effect that it is not enough for the opposition party to ask questions of the government. Mr Pritam said that while the WP has a way to go yet in achieving its goals, however, questioning the government “remains a fundamental role of a responsible opposition” and that it will continue to hold the government to account.

At a media conference wherein the People’s Action Party’s assessment of GE2020 was discussed, Mr Wong said of the WP, “Now that the Workers’ Party has more MPs in Parliament, they cannot just continue asking the Government questions. It is also their duty to put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated.”

In a Facebook post on Monday morning (July 20), Mr Pritam wrote that he had been asked by The Straits Times for a response to Mr Wong’s comments, and he posted his response (both in English and Mandarin) on his page.

The WP chief wrote that the WP now has nearly 11 percent of elected seats in Parliament, with 10 MPs. While this is an increase from the seven percent of seats held in the last Parliament, this still falls far short of the party’s medium-term goal of securing 1/3 of the elected seats in Parliament, “at which point the PAP would be denied a 2/3 majority of seats, preventing it from changing the Constitution – the highest law of our land – at will.”

For this to happen, the WP needs 32 elected MPs, and even if this should happen, “such an outcome would still give the ruling party a very strong mandate with 61 elected seats, allowing it to advance its agenda and policies.”

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Response to Lawrence Wong______________________________(Mandarin translation below)The Straits Times reached out to…

Posted by Pritam Singh on Sunday, 19 July 2020

Mr Pritam made it a point to counter Mr Wong’s suggestion that it is not enough for the WP to ask questions of the government.

“Questioning any government of the day however,” he wrote, “remains a fundamental role of a responsible opposition – not just in Singapore – but in any parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world. This duty is critical in holding the government to account and it will remain fundamental to the WP’s work in Parliament.

As for the matter of putting forward policy alternatives, Mr Pritam said that the WP would continue doing so, even as it primarily relies on its volunteers to carry out political work. In contrast, “the Government continues to have a 120,000-strong civil service as a potential resource for parliamentary debates,” he wrote.

The WP will “continue to advance forward-looking suggestions for the welfare of Singaporeans. This includes proposals such as the Redundancy Insurance and alternative approaches to POFMA, both of which were raised in the previous session of Parliament. In addition, the WP will encourage public conversations – such as the prospects of HDB lease decay – and to that end, will release public working papers to highlight issues that significantly affect Singaporeans.”

For the time being, the WP head said that the party’s efforts in Parliament will focus on “key bread-and-butter concerns; jobs for Singaporeans, healthcare for our seniors and more generally, cost of living concerns, amongst others,” adding that one important aspect of its focus “will cover political issues that have a direct impact on transparency, accountability, balance, and fairness.”

Mr Pritam ended his post, which has gone on to be widely shared, by writing that whether or not the PAP Government will move towards “greater information sharing will turn in favour of greater openness.”

“The extent to which realistic policy alternatives can be advanced both in public and in Parliament is also a function the PAP’s approach to democratic politics. Whatever the expectations the PAP have of the WP, the WP’s purpose and approach in Parliament is to advance and achieve better outcomes for Singapore, and to champion the welfare of Singaporeans. We will remain steadfast and fully committed to that cause,” wrote Mr Pritam.—/TISG

Read also: Lawrence Wong on GE2020: PAP to work on appealing to young voters

Lawrence Wong on GE2020: PAP to work on appealing to young voters

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